Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Funeral Pyre – One-Shot

Published: July 24th, 2019
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Alberto Jiminez Albuquerque, Joshua Cassara, Declan Shalvey (cover)

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

I’ve lost count of how many Web of Venom one-shots there have been over the last year but I’ve enjoyed all of them. They tie directly to Donny Cates’ run on Venom, which started just over a year ago, as well as his upcoming Absolute Carnage mega event.

What I liked about this one is that it featured Mania, a symbiote character that’s been missing from Marvel since the death of Flash Thomspon. She was tied to Flash while he was Venom and because of that, became a symbiote herself.

I’ve always dug Mania, so seeing her come back and be involved, in some way, with this mega event is kind of cool.

This sees Carnage, back from oblivion, as he is hunting down all the symbiote pieces on Earth. This puts Mania in his crosshairs.

Overall, this story does a good job of reestablishing Mania into the Marvel mythos and it also helps add another plot thread to the Absolute Carange event.

I thought Cullen Bunn did a good job on the writing, tying this to a much bigger tapestry. I was a fan of the art too.

Ultimately, I don’t give a shit about big comic book events anymore. However, the groundwork that’s been laid for a year, leading up to Carnage’s massive return, has been pretty damn good and at least has me interested in what’s to come over the next few months.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution

Published: September 28th, 2011
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Leonardo Manco, Jerome Opena

Marvel Comics, 108 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted to pick up Rick Remender’s run on X-Force for a long time. But there are so many comics I want to read that the mountain is always growing. I finally got around to this one though, the first of seven volumes and a good setup for the series.

If you’ve read the X-Force series where the team becomes a black ops squad for Cyclops, handling the really dark shit that the X-Men can’t, then you should know what you’re getting into here. This picks up after that run but Remender shuffles the group’s members and makes things more interesting.

Where I’ve been critical of Deadpool in the past, these are the types of stories that he tends to flourish in. He is still comedic and has his quips but it works better having him lighten the dark mood than just starring in his own comic and giving us straight comedy or superhero parody.

I really like the duality that is explored here with Warren Worthington, as he phases between his Angel and Archangel personas and because of that, has real trust issues in his relationship with Psylocke.

This team also features Wolverine in a leadership role, as well as Fantomex, who I honestly don’t know. But he seems like an interesting enough character and I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

The threat in this story sees the emergence of a new Four Horsemen of the Apoclypse, as X-Men baddie Apocalypse has returned in an interesting form.

Where this is going is hard to tell and this volume doesn’t work as its own story. It reads like the first chapter to a much larger book. And while that may irritate some people that want a resolution within the covers of their trade paperbacks, I’m committed to seeing this whole series through.

That being said, this lays the groundwork without giving you too much of an idea as to what’s on the horizon. I hope the surprise is a pleasant one.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

TV Review: The Boys (2019- )

Original Run: July 26th, 2019 – current
Created by: Eric Kripke
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Boys by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cast: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Kapon, Karen Fukuhara, Nathan Mitchell, Elisabeth Shue, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Esposito, Giancarlo Esposito, Haley Joel Osment, Brit Morgan

Sony Pictures Television, Amazon Studios, Kripke Enterprises, Point Grey Pictures, Original Film, Kickstart Entertainment, KFL Nightsky Productions, 8 Episodes (so far), 55-66 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

If I’m being honest, the trailer for this show hurts it. When I saw it, I thought it looked cheesy and way too edgy boi. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the show was something much better than what the trailer alluded to.

In fact, this is the best superhero show on television. Now I’m saying that only having seen the first season, as that’s all we’ve got at this point. However, I have a good feeling that it should maintain its quality, at least for another season or two, as it ends in a pretty profound way like a stiff, solid gut punch.

Like Preacher, another television show adapted from the comic book work of Garth Ennis, this is a dark tale that shows some people at their very worst while still providing enough lightheartedness to help take the edge off.

The cast is absolutely superb in this. Every single person that’s a regular on the show is putting in some top notch work. Karl Urban kills it in everything and that should go without saying. However, I don’t know much about Jack Quaid but I’m a fan now. The real standout though is Anthony Starr, who plays Homelander, who is this universe’s version of a Superman. Except this Superman is a total asshole that does some unbelievably heinous stuff.

I wasn’t completely sold on the show until episode four, which was the halfway point for this short season. Starr’s Homelander takes center stage and shows you the type of mad god that he is. While powerful superheroes turned evil and running amok is nothing new in the genre, this was some next level shit. And it was a moment that could have made the show or broke it. It certainly made it, as its perfectly executed, giving off the right sort of emotion and context, adding real depth to two of the main characters.

Since I loved the hell out of this show’s inaugural season, I don’t want to spoil too much. But if it’s not hitting the right notes for you early on, give it until the end of episode four. At the point, it’s hard not to go on.

The Boys is solid storytelling, solid character building and maybe the savior of the superhero genre, which is starting to get redundant and tiresome like spaghetti westerns by the late ’70s. And maybe that’s because this isn’t a standard superhero story, it’s real drama with high stakes and there are a lot of narrative threads and different avenues that the show can explore.

In only 8 episodes, it perfected world building and gave us something special… something I definitely want more of. Only two other shows really ensnared me like this in the last ten-to-twelve years: Mr. Robot and Breaking Bad.

Now the rating is pretty high but it just represents the first and so far only season. Hopefully, The Boys can maintain its quality moving forward.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: another Garth Ennis comic turned television show: Preacher.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

Published: October, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Art by: Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

Kraven’s Last Hunt is considered to be one of the best Spider-Man story arcs ever written. I’ve gotta say that I agree with that assessment and frankly, it’s near perfect minus a few minor things that hinder it.

The art by Mike Zeck is superb though. And even if the story wasn’t as exceptional as it is, the art in this book really takes it to another level due to its grittiness.

This story came out at the end of Spider-Man’s black costume era. The fact that he’s wearing that costume in this story really adds to the tone and gives this a brooding atmosphere that it wouldn’t have had were he wearing his traditional blue and red outfit.

For Kraven fans, this is a must read, as it’s the most important story to feature the character. It also sees him get the best of Spider-Man, by burying him alive for weeks, as he takes over the mantle, becoming a “superior Spider-Man”. So really, Dan Slott through Doctor Octopus pretty much just recycled this concept with his Superior Spider-Man comic book series. But I can’t knock Slott for that, as I enjoyed the series and he definitely made it his own.

Getting back to this story, it also features the minor villain Vermin. The Vermin stuff is very important to the plot but I’ve never been a fan of the character, as he’s pretty one note and generic. Vermin’s inclusion is one of the things I wasn’t keen on in the story but they do include him in a way that makes sense and enriches the story overall. I feel like a different angle would’ve been better though, as so much time is devoted to the character that it detracts from the larger, much better story. Frankly, I just want this to be 100 percent Kraven.

This six issue arc ends in a pretty dark place but it’s almost a perfect conclusion to this rich story. And in a lot of ways, it foreshadows the darkness that is soon to come into Spider-Man’s life in the form of Venom.

Kraven’s Last Hunt absolutely deserves its praise. It’s a true high point to one of the best eras in Spider-Man lore. It’s also one of the reasons I became a lifelong fan of Marvel’s most popular hero.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: late ’80s Spider-Man comics, especially the David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: The Death-Defying Devil (2008 series)

Published: 2008
Written by: Alex Ross, Joe Casey
Art by: Edgar Salazar, Alex Ross (covers)
Based on: Daredevil by Jack Binder, Jack Cole (revamped)

Dynamite Entertainment, 92 Pages

Review:

Before there was Daredevil, well… there was Daredevil.

This isn’t Marvel’s Daredevil who debuted in the 1960s. This is the Golden Age Daredevil, who was a hero published by Lev Gleason Publications starting in 1940. Nowadays, due to copyrights, he is referred to as the Death-Defying Devil.

This is a review of his first series by Dynamite Entertainment back in 2008. I wanted to check it out because he has a new series debuting later this year.

However, despite the fantastic Alex Ross covers, there wasn’t much here to keep me wanting to read beyond this story. It sets up the universe for the Death-Defying Devil and other golden age heroes he calls allies but the story was weak and mostly uninteresting.

The interior art also wasn’t fantastic and the whole idiom about “don’t judge a book by its cover”, works in reverse too.

I may read the follow up story to this but I’m not sure when. Maybe on a rainy day when I’m caught up on all the other comics in my queue.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern adaptations of Golden Age superheroes.

Book Review: ‘Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics’ by Stan Lee & Robert Greenberger

Since How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way rarely left my side in my adolescent and early teen years, I wanted to check out Stan Lee’s other books on creating comics.

This was the first more modern volume I’ve read. He put out a few through Dynamite Entertainment about a decade ago and I’d like to work my way through them.

What drew my interest to this one, in particular, is that it was focused on writing. So obviously, I wanted to soak up all of Stan the Man’s advice, as I’ve created comic books in the past and plan to work on a few in the future.

While this book definitely has Stan steering the ship, a lot of it features advice from a myriad of comic book creatives. Stan does a superb job of organizing the advice of others and presenting it at the right time to help hammer home some of his points. But he also allows for others’ perspectives to be heard.

This book probably isn’t interesting to those who don’t want to write comics but it is chock full of great advice for those that do.

It’s not life changing for would be writers but it is informative and a good primer on how to write specifically for comics and the pros and cons of different writing methods.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics and Stan Lee’s How to Draw Superheroes.